Planner: Widgee Engineering's survival 'in public interest'
AS THE clock counts down on Widgee Engineering's future, the owner's latest application is a last gasp effort to stay part of the community they have served for 25 years.
But the question raised at today's public meeting in support of the business, by the man responsible for that new development application, was - it even necessary?
"In any planning frame work there is a term called overriding community need in the public interest. That test is a really important one,” said ex-council planning director and Plansmart founder Mike Hartley.
"We planners plan for communities, council as a planning authority should be planning for communities.
"That test, effectively trumps all.”
Met with applause as he took the stage from the crowd of about 250, Mr Hartley was sceptical of the need for the application process.
"There is a very serious question as to whether the application is necessary.”
Mr Hartley said that if any business can demonstrate its closure would severely harm its local community, than there is a responsibility by decision makers to do every thing they can to keep it open.
"The fact that this thing has so much community support would indicate, pretty clearly, that this test has been satisfied,” Mr Hartley said.
Councillors Glen Hartwig and Hilary Smerdon were the only two elected representatives to attend today's meeting.
It is understood there was some conjecture about councillors attendance in general.
However, Crs Hartwig and Smerdon both said they were there to listen to the community, in the hope it would help them make an objective decision about the upcoming vote on the business.
"I am here to listen and make an educated decision on certain businesses in this area,” Cr Smerdon said.
"I cannot say yay or nay at this particular stage but I am here to do a job, and I will do that job.”
Cr Hartwig agreed it was imperative businesses were encouraged to flourish in the region.
He supported both sides of the argument being presented so all councillors could make an objective decision.
It is unlikely that there will be another public meeting before the application is voted on by council.
Widgee Engineering employee Levi Bennett was encouraged by the community turn out today, saying it helped alleviate the insecurity.
"All the community support we can get is vital,” Mr Bennett said.
* This story has been updated to reflect an accurate count of the attendees.